On a recent trip to the movies to see Disney’s latest G-rated installation for kids, my hubby and I walked languidly out of the movie theater with our brood when it was all over. We were content, we were tired, and probably more than a little bit numb after the sound digital-animation wallop our brains had just taken in the name of letting the kids be little. Getting into the car, no words needed to be spoken. None. My husband simply forked them right over.
Because he knows.
After years of holding my palm out and him obliging me knowingly, he knows. I am a saver. Not the coupon clipping, frugal living sort either. (Not that there is anything wrong with a reasonable amount of thriftiness, of course.) What I am referring to has much less to do with microeconomics and much more to do with posterity.
I am exaggerating, of course. The gravity of my scrapbooking activities do not, by any means, reach such monumental proportions. Instead, they are strictly for my own enjoyment, and for that of my family’s. You see, for years I would simply hoard these tangible memories, storing them away in boxes and baskets, never to be looked at again. For my “scrapbook,” I would say, as I sheepishly added more and more to my bottomless collection.
Except that there was no scrapbook. It didn’t exist yet. The idea of a simultaneously convenient and beautiful medium for storing and viewing all of these mementos lived only in my mind as I continued my search for the method that would one day justify all this madness.
And then I found it.
You see, it wasn’t just the right album that was missing. It was the time. Traditional scrapbooking has always involved incredibly unrealistic demands on your time with all sorts of cutting and crimping and gluing going on that I, frankly, just couldn’t afford. While I may have had the desire, what I really couldn’t part with were all those hours, in spades, to sit down to marathon arts and crafts sessions each and every time- not to mention the cleanup afterwards!
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had always felt this way. Apparently there were droves of memory keepers out there, just like myself, looking for a way to mesh the pleasure of archiving with the real limitations of a full and busy life. One of them, Becky Higgins, decided to do something about it. She founded Project Life, and almost single-handedly revolutionized the scrapbooking experience.
I was hooked from the moment I first laid eyes on it.
Almost overnight I became an avid Project Lifer, a method that involves simply sliding journaling/embellishment cards and photographs into a custom designed sheet protector of sorts. No scissors, no glue, no mess. The sleeves themselves come in various sizes to fit with the particular style you’re going for and album size you’re working with. I went with a white 12×12 inch album for my first foray into Higgins’ streamlined technique and quickly found myself filling pages and albums like I’d (literally) never done before.
Since I’ve started using Project Life, quite a few off-shoots to this system have been developed, providing things like embellishments, cards, stamps, and other details for layouts. Usually available through monthly subscription services, these kits cut down on the time you would normally spend shopping for these things yourself. Multiple subscriptions can quickly become expensive, so- while I’ve tried a few- these days I limit myself to just my favorite- Studio Calico. What I love about them is their variety. They switch it up every month and include unique products that I would never find perusing store aisles or websites myself. Oftentimes they even work directly with designers who create items exclusively for them.
Basically, I let Studio Calico do all the curating for me!
Over time, I’ve found a rhythm. I’ve developed a system that works for me. I still put aside mementos and keepsakes, but I’ve narrowed down the amount and become more particular about what to include in my layouts. Now, while I’m away, such as on our recent vacation to Maine, I focus more on being in the moment, making the actual memories and taking the photographs, than I do on squirreling away every last scrap of memorabilia. There are a couple of other things too, however, that have helped me further streamline my process.
I’ve invested in a few items that allow me to utilize the time I have to spend at my scrapbooking table more wisely. Among my favorites is the Crop-A-Dile, a tool that conveniently and precisely rounds the corners of my photographs, giving them the softer edge I prefer in my spreads; a mini stapler, which comes in handy when attaching smaller items or embellishments easily and quickly; and a clear stamp block, to which stamps easily cling and whose transparency makes precision feasible.
My latest acquisition, however, and the one I appreciate above all others, is my photo printer. I use the Epson Picturemate Show printer that turns out exceptional quality photographs right at my desk, right when I need them. This has cut down an entire step in my process, saving me a significant amount of time. I could never go back to ordering- and waiting for- my scrapbooking prints though the mail!
Looking back through my albums, I can see that much more than just my speed has changed. My technique has evolved quite a bit as well. Taking a cue from another Project Life inspiration, Ali Edwards, and her Day in the Life concept, I’ve found myself journaling more and more of late, documenting not just the photographs, but the stories behind them as well.
I write down the thoughts, words, and other such tiny details of life that get lost in time.
I’ve also learned to not hold back, to document the bad as well as the good. Because, while looking back at these moments may well put a knot in my throat, they are part of the story as well. These hurdles allowed me to grow, and being able to look back at them reminds me of the little things that pushed me through, and of the the people who took the hard road with me.
The rough days aren’t necessarily meant to be forgotten.
Anyone who scrapbooks can tell you just how much looking back through your albums means, how certain memories come flooding back, how a flurry of emotions are evoked from a single photo, a few words on a page. Especially, however, how thankful you are to have saved these pieces of life to hold onto. It feels good to know that my memories can be recalled so dependably this way, especially the little ones, the details that would normally have been lost in the fray.
As I’m working on this post, I am also tossing around layout ideas for our recent Maine vacation in my head, and I can’t help but smile as I think back to my old, shoebox-style of “scrapbooking” and of how far Project Life has helped me go since then. Now, when my husband dispenses with that birthday dinner receipt from his wallet, when my kids hand me scraps of paper covered in their trademark scribbles, or whenever I capture a particularly whimsical moment of everyday life on my iPhone, they no longer get thrown into the abyss of years past.
Now, I know exactly what I’m going to do with them.